The Olympics and Michael Phelps blew our minds! and he’s brought Cupping with him! Absolute Health & Performance Soft Tissue Therapist James Meredith discusses the ancient therapy of Cupping.
The Summer Olympics have just passed us and with it brought a host of phenomenal physical feats from superstars like Michael Phelps. The now 23 – time Olympic gold medal winner is a walking headline (or should I say swimming headline), with every step taken and comment made reaching international attention. So it was no wonder that when Phelps and other US athletes started sporting darks marks on their shoulders that more than enough blogs, Facebook feeds, tweets and new reports all began covering the why’s, definitions, and efficacy of the physical therapy “Cupping”.
This is not the first time Cupping has been thrown into the spot light and certainly won’t be the last. Any time a celebrity dons the cup marks in front of a camera you’ll be sure it helps them draw attention to the cameras! But it’s certainly nothing new. Dating back to ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cultures, one of the oldest medical textbooks in the world, the Ebers Papyrus, describes how the ancient Egyptians used cupping therapy in 1,550 B.C.
So what exactly are we talking about? Cupping can potentially be another way to help the body’s ability to recover, or heal itself through an increase in concentrated blood flow in an area of the body. It is an ancient form of therapy where the muscle is drawn, or sucked up into a cup that is placed on the skin. It really is something you need to see to understand the process!
Two main styles are most commonly used to create the suction. Plastic cupping uses a suction gun to draw the muscle high up into the cup, while glass cupping uses a vacuum effect of an open flame to draw the muscle into the cup. I personally use glass cupping unless working at an event where plastic cups would only be indicated for safety reasons.
People get Cupping for many purposes including to help with muscular pain, inflammation, blood flow, relaxation, and generally just to ‘feel’ better. Very similar to the way therapeutic massage works with the mental and emotional state. It varies quite considerably. I’ve personally used cupping for many years. In all that time I can certainly say,a large number of those that have asked for it, have done so confident in the knowledge that it makes them ‘feel’ better.
It seems to me that Phelps and the other athletes use cupping as part of their overall recovery protocol. Amongst their active recovery such as ‘swim downs’, stretching, quality sleep, nutrition, cupping would be used by their therapists as part of their passive recovery techniques. Let it be massage, dry needling, PNF stretching or K taping, the name of the game is making sure the athlete is feeling recovered and well prepared for the next race.
So if you are looking to find another way to help manage the aches and pains of a busy lifestyle, or to book in and try a session of cupping, please feel free to contact me directly at Absolute Health & Performance.